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Hockey India League: Uttar Pradesh Wizards in semis after thrilling draw

Uttar Pradesh Wizards made it to the semifinals of the Hockey India League for the fourth time after playing out a 4-4 draw with table-toppers Dabang Mumbai in Lucknow on Wednesday.

other sports Updated: Feb 23, 2017 11:26 IST
Hockey India League,UP Wizards,Dabang Mumbai
Action during the Hockey India League match between Uttar Pradesh Warriors and Dabang Mumbai in Lucknow on Wednesday. (HIL)

Uttar Pradesh Wizards made it to the semifinals of the Hockey India League for the fourth time, playing a 4-4 draw with table-toppers Dabang Mumbai here on Wednesday.

The sharing of points helped the Wizards finish third in the six-team league with 25 points, while Mumbai finished at the top with 35 points. In the semifinals on Saturday at Chandigarh, the Wizards will play Kalinga Lancers, while Mumbai will lock horns with Delhi Waveriders. The final is slated for Sunday.

The semifinal line-up was decided even before the start of the match as two-time former champions Ranchi Rays were already out of contention for a last-four berth, despite winning 6-2 against Delhi Waveriders in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Ajay Yadav and Ramandeep Singh scored the two field goals (a field goal is counted as two) for the Wizards, while Gurjant Singh and Manpreet struck back for Mumbai, also through field goals. All the goals were scored in the first two quarters.

Playing before a modest crowd, VR Raghunath-led Wizards kept the momentum going from the first minute and dominated the proceedings. After losing to Mumbai at Mumbai almost a month back, the Wizards wanted to teach a lesson to their rivals, who were aiming for their fourth successive win in the league phase.

After some quick exchange of passes in the first few minutes, both sides raised their attacks, but it was the Wizards who took the lead, surprising the fast-moving Mumbai side. Playing a role of a perfect feeder, Raghunath put the ball rolling for India under-17 Asia Cup-winning captain Ajay Yadav, who made no mistake in sounding the board with a powerful hit from the right flank in the 12th minute (2-0).

The joy was short-lived as Gurjant Singh struck the leveller in the very next minute. After stopping a perfect pass from Manpreet inside the penalty circle, junior World Cup-winning team member Gurjant shot the ball home (2-2).

An equaliser further raised the attacks of both the teams even in the second quarter, and this time Ramandeep Singh pushed the side into lead. The experienced Ramandeep didn’t allow Mumbai’s custodian David Harte even think for a while, displaying the art of a perfect reverse hit in the 17th minute (4-2).

Again it was Raghunath, who fed the ball to Ramadeep Singh. But it remained the same old story as within minutes Manpreet restored parity for Mumbai after his hit deflected from Ramandeep’s stick before dodging past keeper PR Sreejesh in the 19th minute (4-4).

First Published: Feb 22, 2017 23:25 IST